Cats go far and wide for diverse group

2012-02-02T00:01:00Z 2014-09-15T10:25:30Z Cats go far and wide for diverse groupRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 02, 2012 12:01 am  • 

Rich Rodriguez last week was a blur of airports and rental cars, in-home visits and take-out menus.

Consider his itinerary.

"Tucson to Youngstown to Pittsburgh to D.C. to Jersey to New York down to Orlando to Key West to Naples to New Orleans to San Antonio and then to Phoenix and back home," the Arizona Wildcats' first-year head coach said. "And that was in three-and-a-half days."

Such is life when you're trying to nail down a full recruiting class in 2 1/2 months: You end up going around the world in 80 days.

The 25-person class Arizona unveiled Wednesday is solid if a bit average, marked more by high-ceiling projects and overachieving little guys than four- and five-star prospects.

Given Rodriguez's degree of difficulty and Arizona's place in the football universe, however, it might as well be made of gold - or, given the coach's airline miles, platinum.

The Wildcats' 2012 recruiting class features players from nine states and five time zones. Rodriguez succeeded in landing some Oklahoma beef, California speed, Florida swagger and East Coast toughness. He signed six Phoenix-area players, a number that will grow if the Wildcats can convince Scottsdale Chaparral High School star Davonte Neal to sign a letter of intent when he visits Tucson sometime in the next 10 days.

The Wildcats helped their case Wednesday by landing Neal's Chaparral teammate, defensive end Dylan Cozens.

The Scout.com recruiting service lists the 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound Cozens as a three-star recruit. He registered 45 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks as a senior at Chaparral, his only season of high school football. Still, Arizona coaches rated Cozens among the nation's best prospects.

"He's the kind of football player I feel we can build a program around," Rodriguez said. "He has a high motor, he loves the game, and we're excited about getting him."

Cozens was one of three surprises on an otherwise drama-free day. Wayne Capers Jr., an all-around athlete from Bridgeville, Pa., spurned an offer from Pitt and a handful of mid-major basketball scholarships to sign with the UA. The 6-foot-1-inch son of former NFL receiver Wayne Capers can play on both sides of the ball and has experience at quarterback. The Wildcats received an afternoon commitment from Ontario (Calif.) Colony's Bryan Harper, a hybrid receiver/defensive back/quarterback. He chose Arizona over offers from Oregon and Washington; in fact, many recruiting analysts predicted he'd end up in the Pacific Northwest.

Harper threw for 604 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 397 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, but his season was cut short by a broken collarbone after just four games. He was fully healthy as a senior, and threw for 505 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 647 yards and six scores.

"He's a great young man," Rodriguez said. "You can just watch his film and then watch him (in person), and see how competitive he is."

They join a class that reflects the diverse backgrounds of many of Arizona's new assistant coaches. Rodriguez was hired Nov. 21 as Mike Stoops' full-time replacement; he brought many of his former West Virginia and Michigan colleagues with him.

Pittsburgh linebacker Dakota Conwell is the only four-star recruit (out of five) in the Wildcats' class. The 6-2, 205-pound Conwell verbally committed to Pitt last summer but changed his mind when coach Todd Graham bolted for Arizona State. He helps address the Wildcats' biggest position of need. Three of the UA's most accomplished recruits - Conwell; Temecula, Calif., product C.J. Dozier; and University of Akron transfer Bryan Wagner - are linebackers.

Conwell hopes to bring a bit of eastern toughness to a conference known for offense.

"From what people say, the Pac-12 (Conference) is about the spread and speed," he said. "Western Pennsylvania football, it's hard-nosed, gritty football. You pound it out. The coaching staff has a lot of Western Pennsylvania guys. We feel like we have a strong tradition of football."

Rodriguez dipped into Florida, where he owns a summer home, to land three skill-position players: wideouts Trey Griffey and Clive Georges and running back J.T. Washington.

Cayman Bundage, a two-way lineman and an all-state selection out of Oklahoma City, may have the most promise among Arizona's big men. And New Orleans wide receiver Jarrell Bennett continues Arizona's history of recruiting in Louisiana: He follows cornerbacks Jonathan McKnight and Cortez Johnson, two of the UA's best young players. The Wildcats even tapped into their Hawaiian pipeline for a tight end, Kamehameha's Keoni Bush-Loo.

The cobbled-together class follows a formula that, even if it works, Arizona's coaches don't want to try again.

"We won't have this many players from this many states and this many time zones in the future," he said. "We're going to cover Arizona and places where we have direct flights to Tucson. We don't want to chase ghosts along three time zones on a 'maybe' or an 'if.'"

Rodriguez joked he "might not have to put a jacket on to recruit in the future."

It beats crisscrossing the country.

"I thought we addressed a lot of our needs, but not all of them," he said. "You'd like to have all your needs and all your wants in every class, but I don't think everybody ever gets that. We addressed a lot of our needs. It's a very solid class."

Signing day superlatives

Tallest: OT T.D. Gross (6 feet 6 inches)

Shortest: RB J.T. Washington (5 feet 7 inches)

Heaviest: DT Cayman Bundage (285 pounds)

Lightest: WRs Jarrell Bennett and Clive Georges (155 pounds)

Closest: OG Zach Hemmila (From Chandler, 95 miles away)

Farthest away: TE Keoni Bush-Loo (From Honolulu, 2,969 miles away)

First to verbally commit: QB Josh Kern (April 26, 2011)

Last to verbally commit: ATH Bryan Harper (3:30 p.m. Wednesday)

Arizona's 2012 recruiting class

Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Hometown (last school)

DB Jamar Allah 6-1 190 Phoenix (North Canyon HS)

QB Javelle Allen 6-2 204 Prosper, Texas (Prosper HS)

WR Jarrell Bennett 5-10 160 New Orleans (Edna Karr HS)

C Beau Boyster 6-4 275 Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco HS)

OG Cayman Bundage 6-2 285 Oklahoma City (Douglass HS)

TE Keoni Bush-Loo 6-4 240 Honolulu (Kamehameha School)

ATH Wayne Capers Jr. 6-1 205 Bridgeville, Pa. (Chartiers Valley HS)

LB Dakota Conwell 6-2 205 Pittsburgh (Upper Saint Clair HS)

DE Dylan Cozens 6-5 245 Scottsdale (Chaparral HS)

LB C.J. Dozier 6-2 210 Temecula, Calif. (Chaparral HS)

WR Clive Georges 6-1 160 Key West, Fla. (Key West HS)

WR Trey Griffey 6-2 190 Orlando, Fla. (Dr. Phillips HS)

OT T.D. Gross 6-6 255 Santee, Calif. (Santana HS)

ATH Bryan Harper 6-0 180 Ontario, Calif. (Colony HS)

OG Zach Hemmila 6-3 275 Chandler (Chandler HS)

LB Cody Ippolito 6-0 210 Scottsdale (Chaparral HS)

DE Kyle Kelley 6-3 230 Irvine, Calif. (Woodbridge HS)

QB Josh Kern 6-5 190 San Antonio (Tom Clark HS)

ATH Anthony Lopez 5-10 185 Gilbert (Mesquite HS)

DT Dwight Melvin 6-1 265 Laveen (Fairfax HS)

CB William Parks 6-0 175 Philadelphia (Germantown HS)

S Yamen Sanders 6-4 190 Culver City, Calif. (Culver City HS)

S Leo Thomas 6-3 180 San Antonio (Houston HS)

LB Bryan Wagner 6-2 235 Dayton, Ohio (University of Akron)

RB J.T. Washington 5-7 165 Satellite Beach, Fla. (Satellite HS)

Note: Dozier and Wagner have already enrolled, and are taking classes. Wagner counts toward Arizona's 2011 recruiting numbers; Dozier is a 2012 player.

Signee breakdown

• By position: Linebacker 4, offensive line 4, defensive line 3, receiver 3, athlete 3, safety 2, quarterback 2, cornerback 2, running back 1, tight end 1.

• By state: Arizona 6, California 6, Florida 3, Pennsylvania 3, Texas 3, Louisiana 1, Hawaii 1, Oklahoma 1, Ohio 1.

• By time zone: Eastern 7, Mountain 6, Pacific 6, Central 5, Hawaii 1

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